Monday, July 16 , 2018, 5:57 pm | Partly Cloudy 75º


Mark Shields: Odds and Ends, Ins and Outs of Capitol Hill

Thanks to President Donald Trump's 2017 tax cuts, we learned this week from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, an additional $2.3 trillion (with a "t") will be added to our national debt during the next decade. Soon, for the only time since World War II, nearly three-quarters of a century ago, the nation's debt — what we and our children and their children owe to bankers and other countries — will be greater than the entire economy of the United States.

But wait. Republicans — ever the fiscal watchdogs — have an idea. The GOP wants to make the temporary 2017 tax cuts permanent. What genius! One more round of tax cuts to magically produce a balanced federal budget. That would be comparable to leaving the landing lights on for Amelia Earhart.

It wouldn't be inaccurate to say that Republicans are collectively afflicted with deficit attention disorder.

» With voters rating the Republican Party negatively by a thumping margin — 59 percent unfavorable and 36 percent favorable — and the Democrats scoring just a little better (at 52 percent unfavorable and 41 percent favorable), it appears inevitable that we're headed for a "Mae West" campaign in the fall. Mae West, for those in the audience who are too young to remember, was an original blond bombshell in Hollywood known for her earthy ways, and she once observed in a film, "When caught between two evils, I generally like to take the one I never tried."

» Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, I have been assured by a formerly reliable authority, actually has some wit and personality, which, I acknowledge, is not apparent to those who hear only his public utterances. This has not always been the case among Republican Senate leaders. Bob Dole has a truly devilish wit. Once, upon seeing three former U.S. presidents — Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon — at a White House event, Dole described the scene: "There they are — see no evil, hear no evil and evil."

Texas Republican Ted Cruz is almost universally regarded as the most unpopular U.S. senator by and among his Senate colleagues. A man who is a total stranger to self-doubt, Cruz was still a little shaken when he learned about this distinction, and he asked Dole, almost plaintively, "Why do people take such an instant dislike to me?" Dole explained to Cruz, "Because, Ted, it saves them time."

» The Democrats, in case anyone is interested, have developed in secret a focus group-tested campaign strategy and slogan for this year's midterm elections, which will be unveiled here for the very first time: "Vote for us. We're not in charge. We're the other guys." Doesn't that make you want to stand up and cheer as if you just heard "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" or "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country"?

» There's an old maxim that urges politicians to be humble in victory and proud in defeat. Trump ignores that advice and delights in the political version of "shooting the wounded." For example, he attacked and belittled South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford after Sanford lost his GOP primary, and then he insulted and mocked New York Democrat Joe Crowley, a popular congressman, after Crowley was upset in his primary. Trump seems determined to prove that Dale Carnegie was wrong.

Enjoy July.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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